The microscopic tissue structure and organization influence the polarization of light. Intravascular polarimetry leverages this compelling intrinsic contrast mechanism by using polarization-sensitive optical frequency domain imaging to measure the polarization properties of the coronary arterial wall. Tissues rich in collagen and smooth muscle cells appear birefringent, while the presence of lipid causes depolarization, offering quantitative metrics related to the presence of important components of coronary atherosclerosis. Here, we review the basic principle, the interpretation of polarization signatures, and first clinical investigations of intravascular polarimetry and discuss how this extension of contemporary intravascular imaging may advance our knowledge and improve clinical practice in the future.
Keywords: Intracoronary optical coherence tomography; collagen; macrophage; plaque composition; polarized light; smooth muscle cell.